Five forced off Alcoa ship MV Portland

Five union crew members aboard a Victorian cargo ship were pulled from their beds and escorted off the ship after a two-month stand-off with global mining giant Alcoa.

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Up to 30 security guards were used to remove the five Maritime Union of Australia members from MV Portland, which was docked in Portland, in the early hours of Wednesday, the union says.

Five foreign replacement crew were then escorted aboard to join 12 remaining Australian crew, who were not union members and not involved in the protest, so that the carrier could set sail for Singapore.

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The unionists had refused to sail on the ship’s final voyage to its new buyer despite a Fair Work Commission ruling in November that ordered them back to work.

The union workers began their protest after Alcoa announced it would sell the ship and that local seafarers would lose their jobs to overseas labour.

MV Portland head cook Michael Pawson, who was removed from the ship, said the protest was always about keeping jobs in Australia.

“This is a dog act and this is not how you treat Australian workers and the Australian workforce,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

“The captain comes bursting into my cabin at one o’clock in the morning and says ‘Michael, get up. You’ve got 10 minutes to get off the vessel … when the ship is still in dispute.”

Alcoa Australia says the sale of the MV Portland protects 700 jobs at the Portland smelter, with more than $6 million per year in savings to the company.

“The MUA has held our ship hostage for two months; disrupting the lives of other crew members, disrupting operations at the Port of Portland, and threatening the Portland community with the loss of cruise ship visits,” Alcoa Australia managing director Michael Parker said in a statement.

“Alcoa has been extremely tolerant and given the MUA and its members every opportunity to stop their illegal industrial action.”

Alcoa Australia says the foreign crew will be paid the same as their Australian counterparts for the journey.

The maritime union said the ship had been running the same route for 27 years between Western Australia and Portland’s Alcoa aluminium smelter.

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